Scott “Tuna” Mitchell likes being the big fish in the Stratford, Connecticut, marina business. Boardwalk Marina is the largest marina on the Hosatonic River and Mitchell credits his success to the power of local radio. Our weekly advertiser success stories are sponsored by SPECbyte.com.
Mitchell, a 47-year-old former professional water skier and onetime offshore power boat owner/operator, took some time to talk with Radio Ink about joining with Connoisseur Media’s WEZN (Star 99.9) and WPLR to grow his business.
Radio Ink: Where is Boardwalk Marina?
Mitchell: We are located in the northernmost part of Fairfield County, Connecticut, in between New Haven and Bridgeport, located on the Housatonic River. The marina was developed in the early ’90s on a property that was once a coal yard that served most of the Eastern seaboard. We came in around 2009. We are the largest marina on the Housatonic River, with about 205 slips; our average slip size is about 40 feet. We have the capacity to haul up to 50 tons of boats, and we can handle boats upwards of 100 feet. We have about seven acres of upland storage that includes our shops and service departments. We stack these things wherever we can find an inch.
Radio Ink: How did you get introduced to radio?
Mitchell: To be perfectly honest with you, I’m a guy that is not a millennial and not of retirement age yet. I had to deal with marketing information, or in some instances, misinformation that has been out there about the boat sale business. As a boat dealer, manufacturer reps always asked me about my website content, how many people I’m reaching, am I number one in Google, am I doing this with satellite?
You know, the logic we brought this down to is that we don’t want people from all over the world, we want people in our own backyard. We have some of the most powerful radio stations in our state in our backyard. Marketing to our potential customers in our area would make more sense than spreading money out all over the place, and it’s worked.
Radio Ink: What was your experience like when you met with your account
executive for the first time?
Mitchell: Pam Racevicius, my account rep from Connoisseur Media, and I had a few phone calls before we met face-to-face, and I explained to her what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. To be perfectly honest, I let her know that I wasn’t sure yet if I wanted to do Pandora, satellite radio, or traditional radio.
Pam was able to come together with Andy Alcosser, director of sales, and explain to us what market group, what people, what percentage of the people we would be hitting, what kind of dollars we could spend, and how we could really drill this thing down to a finite time of year. They explained how we could change the message when we need to change it, giving us the ability to stay ahead of the curve. They taught us how to do it, and we have had a lot of fun and success doing it.
Radio Ink: What made you settle with Star 99.9 and WPLR?
Mitchell: Let’s be honest: Dad wants a boat, that would be more suited for what I think is the more “rebellious” WPLR. Mom says yes or no to a boat, that would be more or less Star 99.9. So we figured by merging both sides of the equation, we would get the best results. That has definitely proven to be the case.
Radio Ink: What type of ads did you put on the air?
Mitchell: I am the voice of the commercials. We use humor. We want to have fun with this, and we also want to make people aware that this is not a sterile environment. We are fun people, and we want people to have fun with us; we are real people. Some of our ad campaign themes have been “It’s Cheaper to Keep Her,” talking about maintaining, restoring, reconditioning your boat, versus buying a new one. Or “Get That Thing Out of the Driveway,” from the wife’s side of things — it’s not going to sit here all winter, go store it somewhere.
One of my favorites is of a family backing down a boat ramp and losing the boat, with the kid saying, “Where is the boat going, Dad?” So we use many avenues of advertising to let people know what we do. To make it simple, we have a tagline, “It’s better at the Boardwalk.” Just come in, get on your boat, go and have some fun.
Radio Ink: How did you know radio advertising was working for you?
Mitchell: We have never seen anything like this before. Week one, we gained probably 30 percent more phone traffic. Just to give you an example, one week in January, we sold seven slips, in the middle of winter in Connecticut. So it’s an instant-gratification situation for us. Now, as Pam always reminds me, it’s not always instant — “Don’t forget, you’ve put a year into this to get where you are today.” There’s some truth to that, but from week one the phones have been ringing.
Radio Ink: Why do you like the relationship you have with Connoisseur
Mitchell: What I enjoy about Connoisseur Media is that all the people there are real people. There is no one there, whether it be the station manager, the production manager, the sales manager, or an on-air personality, that doesn’t want to see you succeed. They understand that as much as this is fun and important to the community, it can’t be done without the advertiser. It can’t be done without a “Thank you for this,” or “Hey, let’s get him over here,” or “Can we bring these guys together and somehow make something work?” It’s very family and very much based on reality, that this is a business for everybody. There are many different facets to it — it’s like a diamond.
Not everything is what it appears on the surface, you have to look further into it to see what you really get. What we get is results!
Radio Ink: How important is a radio station to your community?
Mitchell: It is huge. Think about what you would know about your community if you only listened to satellite radio, or if you only read news that was a day or two old in a newspaper. How would you know there was fire last night, how would you know that a child is missing, how would you know there is a comedy club show this weekend, how would you know there is a river cleanup coming up, how would you know there is a toy drive going on? What good is news if it’s not right now? Fortunately, local radio is a business that provides news in real time. It’s community news, and I don’t think there is any better showcase for me as an advertiser.
Radio Ink: What would you say to potential advertisers considering radio,
advertisers who may be a bit hesitant?
Mitchell: My advice to them would be to not waste a minute, jump in. Think about how much you spend on a monthly publication for your industry to try and hit just your target people. What are you looking for? A global economy or local people? What is it you’re trying to sell? Find a tagline for your business — ours is “It’s better at the Boardwalk.”
The most important thing to me, to stress to other business owners, is don’t be afraid of radio. You can’t grow if people don’t know; it’s that simple. You don’t have to spend $10,000 a month, you don’t have to spend $5,000 a month; but you have to let people know who you are, where you are, and what you do. Radio has done that for Boardwalk Marina. It’s that simple.
Thanks to GM Kristin Okesson and Account Manager Pam Racevicius,
Connoisseur Media Southern Connecticut (WEZN 99.9, WPLR 99.1, WYBC 94.3, WFOX 95.9)